The words hit me like a brick in the back of my head: Fire warning on the upper mountain black bear spotted along the trail and by the way, if you need a dust mask, we are temporarily out, but will have more shortly.
With a noon LeMan's start under the blistering Canadian sun, hundreds of racers hyperventilate their way up a steep, dusty goat trail, around a single overworked tree and back down to their bikes. Then the real race begins.
By 4 pm, I'm having bad luck two flats on as many laps, plus, I can't seem to stay on my bike! I have been over my handlebars three times already and it's started to rattle my cage. Defending champion Greg Blackwell has a 15 minute lead on John Stamstad who has a 10 minute lead on me. We are riding 11-mile laps at about the same pace as most of the four- and five-person teams. The good news is the temperature is starting to cool down from 90°. My race support, Elaine Marquez, is maintaining a perfect flow of GU and XL-1 and in spite of the three crashes, my Wilderness Trail Bike is running smoothly.
I am picking up the pace on the hill climbs but holding on for fear of injury on the descents. It is in this groove that Stamina-man appears suddenly behind me, makes a friendly remark and just as quickly drops me. Of course, I tried to keep up, I was mad now! Only 11 hours into the race and there he is, already lapping me. A bad night, made worse.
The Kokanee race brings together some of the most talented of the elite racers from around North America to form teams in the hopes of being the top dogs. The four person elite teams are in a race all their own. Keeping a brutal and consistent pace, their lap times are around 55 minutes. This is pretty incredible considering the amount of dust and the trail conditions.
The Adrenalin race at Silver Star is promoted to have the strongest men's solo field of any race this year. In the women's solo field, Janice Giesinger and Zuzzanna Schramm are putting on quite a show, with just 30 minutes separating them, their race is too close to call. In the two-man division, it's the Monkey Boyz from Bellingham, WA. who are showing they can ride more than just mossy trails on rainy days, and are kicking some serious Canadian butt.
The psychological impact of constantly falling shakes my confidence which leads to caution, overuse of the front brake and more crashes. If I can just get through this nightmare without breaking my neck I'll be so happy. My other dreadful image is of Stamstad lapping me for the third time; a wonderful incentive to push a little harder, get back to business and stop looking back so much.
6 am, with the pre-dawn glow of morning and a full moon in the western sky, I know the sun is rising over somewhere in the east, hope is in the air. I am almost at the end of the tunnel, and unlike other 24 hour races this night has not been through the tunnel of love. I especially like the morning, there is something about seeing more than 20 feet past my front tire that is refreshingly uplifting not only to my spirits but also to my pace.
7 am , a bad night can mean the need to have a good day. With four hours left, Troy Lynn hot on my trail and Stamstad way out in front, I put down two fast laps to maintain my lead and keep second place. As long as I can hold on till the end, I've got it.
10 am, I have been doing the math and have figured out that only if I have a big mechanical can Troy catch me. With this new found liberation, I turn my focus to getting through each lap without walking. After the first lap, I had set a goal of not walking any part of the course, but now with the site of so many people pushing their bikes and the growing heat, I start wondering if its worth keeping that goal. Of course, I think this way until I get to the base of the climb, but what the hell, I hate to push my bike so I just grind and bear it.
11:20am, the heat is cranked up full blast. Waves of chills pass through me. Except for the one time I stopped to puke, I've stopped sweating. The urge to hang out at the top of the last downhill is highly tempting. The image of Troy Lynn riding by as I sit waiting for the gun to signal the end of the race keeps me going.
Pat Norwil, Mountain Zone Correspondent